The Edmond Sun

May 6, 2013

VET Q&A: Indoor cats still need flea, tick prevention

Dr. M. Margaret King
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Q: I have three cats that are in the house all the time. Molly, Missy and Scooter never go outside because bad things can live outdoors that can kill or injure them. Do I really need to put flea and tick preventatives on them? Also, are the ones labeled for dogs really harmful to cats or can I use one container and spread it on all three cats? Is it just the volume that is bad for cats?

Great job keeping them in the house all the time. You are absolutely correct about the outdoors. Dogs, coyotes cars, and occasionally other cats and people can be harmful to pet cats.

You do indeed need to put flea and tick prevention on all three cats. You did not mention having any dogs that go in and out, but if you have one or more dogs, they can act as a courier for both fleas and ticks bringing them in to you and your cats. One thing too many people do not think about is how you and other people living in your household can carry hitchhikers in on your socks, shoes and other clothing. Just because your cats are always in the house does not mean they are never going to have a tick or flea on them.

One hitchhiker female flea carried in on a sock, or shoe can lead to hundreds of fleas. Even this single flea, if eaten by a cat has a high probability of causing a tapeworm to grow inside the cat’s GI tract. Fleas are the intermediate hosts for tapeworms and certainly a source for tapeworm infestation.

With regard to the use of dog flea products on cats, absolutely no! You should never use a product containing permethrin on a cat. There is a safety issue anytime a dog product is used on a cat that can lead to death or severe side effects.

Any cat-approved product should be placed on the back of the neck and head so the cat cannot lick or reach it. The product will be transmitted through the natural skin oils into the oil glands where it gradually will be widened out over the next 30 days to protect against fleas and ticks. This “carrier” as it is called is a big part of product and its efficiency. Just because a product is labeled to have a flea-killing chemicals in it, it does not necessarily mean it will distribute over the entire body and be effective for the entire month. In this regard it is better to stay with name-brand products as may be recommended by your veterinarian.

Year-round prevention is recommended because not only is fall the peak time for the deer tick, but fleas and ticks survive all year long on wildlife and inside our homes. Oklahoma’s climate of humidity and mild winters has added to the increased parasite problem

We must break the flea cycle to get rid of fleas in the yard or home. Just killing the adult fleas simply knocks off the tip of the iceberg. Larvae, cocoon and eggs continue to mature and feed the infestation. A product with an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR) will stop the juvenile fleas from developing and helps break the cycle faster. To completely get rid of fleas once they have gained a foot-hold may take several months. As with many things regarding both our and our pet’s health, the ounce of prevention is certainly worth the pound of cure.

Discuss your particular situation with your veterinarian. She can make the best recommendations for you to have year-round protection.

DR. M. MARGARET KING, a longtime Edmond veterinarian, is a guest columnist. If you have any questions for her, email them to